When you decide to go freelance, start a business or a blog - a website is an essential tool. For regular readers of This Fashion is Mine you will know I run my own photography studio, and have done for almost a full year now. When setting up the business I had a website that my brother set up for me. It was fantastic, I was really pleased with the whole look. But after some time I realised I didn't know how to alter things myself. There was lots of confusing coding involved and moving things around wasn't easy. It was important that I could have more control over my website and I'm so fickle, I want to change things every few months or so anyway!
I decided to move to Squarespace and re-invent my whole website. Squarespace is a website builder and blogging platform with lots of amazing features and it's super easy to use. I'm not being sponsored to talk about Squarespace, I just wanted to share my beginner steps with you guys and let you know how I got on with setting up www.photographybygwen.co.uk
When you sign up you get two weeks for free. You can use all the features of Squarespace and design your whole website/blog before you pay a single penny. This really helped because there's no way I'd consider paying for a service without getting to test run it first.
I chose a template (Wells) and got started. It was really, really easy to change the design elements of my website. I use Blogspot for this blog (even after all these years!) and it's pretty tricky to get things to look just how you'd like them but Squarespace does all the hard work for you.
You can change the way photos are displayed in the gallery settings, add 'blocks' which are just like Blogspot 'widgets' and then enter text, photos, social media links, the list goes on, into these blocks. It's actually a lot of fun and I spent quite a few hours at it the first night I signed up.
Paying for a Website
Why do we need to pay for a website? Well, you are paying for the server that hosts your site. Your paying for all those cool features that someone had to code. You also get a domain name included in your Squarespace package. You'll be set up with a '.squarespace.com' url at first but you can pick something unique once you sign up properly. I actually already had my domain name, with another host, but it was easy enough to transfer it over to my new Squarespace site.
How much? Squarespace is an American company so everything appears in dollars. But the websites are fully functional in the UK. I went for the first package (the cheapest) to start off with, which works out at about £5.25 per month, if you pay annually. It's a bit more expensive if you pay on a monthly basis. I think it's completely worth it for the ease of being able to control and design my own website that looks amazing. I also see it as a business expense that's unavoidable. I need a website for my business to run successfully, therefore it's a valid expense.
As I've already mentioned, the design tools on Squarespace are top notch! They have lots of templates to choose from and then you customise as you go. I went for a photography appropriate template which means large photographs and a simple menu on the left. I wanted to keep everything very easy to navigate. I thought about my target audience (which is actually very wide in terms of age but more limited in location) and I thought about what was important to say about my business. I wanted the photographs to speak for themselves and have nothing pull away from their impact.
I have one main page (Home) four gallery pages, a blog, a price list and a contact page. You glide through the photos by clicking on them to move to the next one. Or hitting PREV/NEXT in the bottom left corner. I have a thumbnail option which scatters the photos across the page in squares and you can click to enlarge one that catches you eye.
I made sure to include social media buttons! These are all ready to go, you just link them up to the correct places. You can change their shape and colour too. Adding elements to the page is easy - you add 'blocks' and then fill them with whatever you need. For example, text, a photograph, a video, links, etc..
With the first and cheapest package you can sell one item on your website. Squarespace help you set up the payment system and design the look of your online store. If you pay slightly more for your website you can sell many more items! I'm currently only selling photography gift vouchers online so I've no need for a bigger shop yet. I like this feature, I can direct clients here when they want to make a safe and easy purchase - then I simply ship their gift vouchers to them in the post.
I can't offer too much advice about using Squarespace as your primary blogging platform. I use the blog feature to occasionally add posts with behind-the-scenes photos and information about the studio. But the blog for me is not the most important part of the site. It is possible to import a blog to a Squarespace website so you don't need to start again from scratch. But the SEO options look a little limited to me, unless I just haven't figured it out properly yet - I'm sure there are people who have written far more in-depth articles about blogging on Squarespace.
Actually writing blog posts and designing the way your blog looks is really easy. You can import photos (even edit them) and Squarespace will size them up correctly and lay everything out neatly. I'm guessing there are blog templates to start with that are better suited to a blogger than my photography template.
Designing your own website can be daunting - I think my best piece of advice would be to look at many many websites and bookmark your favourite ones. Don't just copy ideas, you want your website to be unique to you. But you can note down why you like the website, what does it have that makes it a joy to use? Then use these positive notes to help you design your own! Sqaurespace makes it really simple. I'm sure there are many more website builders out there that work very well (please leave a comment if you use one that you love) but I can only speak from my experience.
Make sure you give www.photographybygwen.co.uk a visit and tell me what you think!